Should students be forced to give up their cellphones during school hours?

That question is being put to the test at a Victoria middle school, where staff have decided handheld devices are so distracting that an unprecedented ban is the only solution.

A letter sent to parents by Central Middle School earlier this month states that in the next school year, students will no longer be allowed to bring cellphones or iPods connected to the internet to school.

“We are making this change at Central after extensive discussion and consideration,” the letter states. “As educators, we are confident it will bring improvement to our students’ school experience as well as our school community in general.”

Central Middle School principal Christopher Macintosh says that the ban represents a progression to the school’s cellphone policies. Currently, students can bring devices to school but must leave them in lockers. If they're caught with phones in class, students must give up their device for the day and retrieve it after school.

“What we found at Central is that many of the students were not able to manage their access to the phones and it was just becoming too tempting for them to use it at other times while they’re in the building, in the washroom, during lunch,” he said. “Kids were working quite hard to get on their phones for non-educational reasons, and that’s creating some conflict with staff but also conflict with each other.”

He said under the new policy, only kids on a special exempt list would be able to bring devices to school, while everyone else would have to leave them at home.

“A few parents emailed me with some very specific situations that require some kind of digital communication after school, and we’re going to accommodate those families,” said Macintosh.

Most schools don’t allow phones to be brought out during class time, but an outright ban at one is a first in the Victoria School District – and it’s receiving mixed reaction from parents.

“I’m just totally against it because we just bought my daughter a cellphone and that was the reason for the cellphone, so that she could contact us after school,” one parent told CTV News.

But other parents said if they could make it through school without an iPhone, so can their kids.

“I think it’s good, it keeps the kids focused on their work and it’s hard enough at home to get them off their devices and doing their work and helping out, just being engaged,” said one mother. “It’s not going to kill them, they’re fine.”

In case of an emergency during or after class, students have been instructed to report back to the school’s office.

Central Middle School plans to have the ban in place by September.